The fireplace transformation

This project (with mucho and mucho appreciated help from my wonderful mom!) truly felt like it was off of HGTV. But it really only took an afternoon and a smidgen of skill (which came from my mom).

Remember how I’m not a huge fan of all the oak in our house? (Just wait… eventually we will be tackling a room that is like 90% oak.) With the fireplace, it wasn’t so much the oak I didn’t like, as the “teeth” design (as Peter calls it) in the woodwork of the fireplace. Here’s a before picture (after the mantle had been all cleared off):

(Hi sweet Biggles!) And here’s a close up of the TEETH. Don’t they look mean?

(My photo colors are all over the place in this post. Photographing a home improvement project is not easy.)

I also thought that painting the fireplace white would help it flow better with the marble tile and look a little more updated. Good news – if we paint it, we can cover up the teeth with an inexpensive molding, and no one will know they’re there! The original plan to chop them out using some sort of tool seemed way too dangerous (not to us, to the fireplace).

So after measuring the length, width, depth, etc. of the teeth area, we spent a good 20 minutes searching Home Depot for 1 1/2-inch wide molding that would work. Out of probably 70 options, only one worked perfectly – and thankfully it was a style that was simple and would look good with our fireplace (and it was only $5!) The plan was to paint, nail the molding over the teeth and paint again.

My mom also had the idea to paint the brass in the fireplace doors black. Not a huge change, but it ended up making a big difference.

Here’s a sneak peak at the after photo (I need to retake it in brighter daylight):

Now I’ll walk you through the process, if you’re interested.

Step one: Sand – fine grade sandpaper – just rough it up.

Step two: Wipe the sanded wood (and brass) down with a rag and tape around anywhere you don’t want paint.

Step three: Paint! This was not an easy paint job. Lots of crevices, and we had to make sure not to leave horrible brush strokes. We did two coats in this step (with an hour dry time between). The teeth did, indeed, need to be painted – at least the insides of them, which were the hardest parts. Even though they were going to be covered up, if you were sitting on the floor you would still be able to see up  under the molding. We had to use very small artist’s brushes for that part. Strangely, I enjoyed painting inside the teeth the most.

Step three-point-five: Spray paint the brass while the first coat is drying. Use heat-resistant paint.

Step four: Peter and my mom took care of figuring out the right lengths and cuts for the molding. This was the toughest part. We ended up making another trip to Home Depot for a miter saw to cut the corner angles. This was worth it — there’s no way you can estimate an exact 45-degree angle.

Step five: Nail the molding to the fireplace using thin nails with tiny heads – the name is escaping me but I’ll update this when I find out. This proved more difficult than expected because the nails would easily bend and therefore become impossible to nail in. Also, you have to nail them ALL the way in so they aren’t sticking out at all. We dinged up a few spots, but you’ll see how we fixed that in the next step.

Step six: Use wood filler to fill in any gaps in the tiny space over the nailheads, the molding (even with a miter saw, it wasn’t perfect) and the dents. Just use your fingers, and smooth it out or sand it lightly after it dries.

Step seven: After the wood filler dries, paint the whole thing again (sigh). But then that’s it! You’re done!

No more dents:

No more gaps in the corner:

And no more teeth! Here’s a before and after:

And in case you’re wondering what is worthy of placement on our mantle…

An unphotographable (seriously!) Pulitzer prize (yep, this is what a Pulitzer looks like. It’s a Tiffany’s paper weight).

And since Peter was jealous of my paper weight, he wanted to show off his most prized trophy as well, to balance it out on the other side, ya know.

(That blue thing in the middle is the Pulitzer certificate. Peter didn’t get a certificate in his poker tourney.)

Once we have kids, we’ll presumably have more important junk than our own accomplishments (and Peter’s attempts at jokes) to display on the mantle. But hey, I’m not just gonna stash that paper weight on a pile of paper.

We got this glass plate in Venice when we were on our honeymoon. I love it!

And these dried flowers were plucked from our church a couple years ago when we were helping with fall yardwork. They’ve been attacked by the cats and are looking a little sparse, so I should snag some more this fall.

And there you have it. A fireplace transformation in less than 5 hours!

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